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Motor City Rides

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Hot on the heels of Nomo, My Dear Disco is the latest great band to come out of the University of Michigan Music School. The Ann Arbor seven-piece answers this musical question: What happens if after years of listening to prog rock and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, your head opened up to French electro-pop group Justice and Ghostly's Matthew Dear (that's where the "Dear" in their name comes from)? Or as the the Pop Project's Zach Curd puts it, "they're like Daft Punk crossed with Mars Volta."

"We're just a bunch of music geeks who want our music to be accessible," says Mike Shea, MDD's drummer. The band's a bunch of contradictions — a group of music majors with a jamband-like following (that means very large) who play tightly orchestrated (they actually don't jam), catchy electro-pop and soul. They'd make more sense supporting Amp Fiddler or Champions of Breakfast than, say, Dark Star Orchestra. The band's Dancethink LP is easily one of the best records out of the mitten this year.

What's more, the band tours in a van powered by vegetable oil. That's right, vegetable oil.

Last July, My Dear Disco purchased a 1998 Ford E350 XL Power Stroke off eBay. Inspired by the Kansas punk band Bent Left — who'd couch-surfed through Disco's band house while touring the country in a vegetable oil-powered van — MDD then took theirs to Full Circle Fuels in Oberlin, Ohio, to convert it to run on straight vegetable oil (in addition to the existent diesel system). The van's now equipped with wireless Internet too, so the band can (net)work whilst touring.

When fuel costs have limited any band's ability to tour, MDD can get to and fro on used oil from a restaurant or vegetable oil donated from a drunken fraternity kitchen.

The band's maiden veggie oil voyage? To Blissfest last August. Recalls guitarist Robert Lester: "It felt like I was breaking the law — moving 60 miles per hour on someone else's garbage."

See My Dear Disco at the Youmacon 2008 anime convention at the Hyatt Regency (600 Town Center Drive, Dearborn; 313-593-1234) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. You can hear My Dear Disco's music at mydeardisco.com. For information on vegetable oil conversions check out fullcirlcefuels.com.

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